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Central Alumni Newsletter

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hello, friends of Central College Abroad! This newsletter, released the second Friday of every month, is intended to keep you in touch with what’s happening with Central College Abroad’s programs across the globe.

November “Local Flavor” photo contest winner submitted by Jamie Baumer of
November “Famous Marks” photo contest winner submitted by Renae Mauk of Central College.

Global Relationships
By: Central College President Mark Putnam

The privileges of a college presidency are many. As the president of Central College, they are also global. My reflections on 2011 are highlighted by the incredible opportunity to visit five of our international programs: Merida in the Yucatan region of Mexico; Granada, Spain; Leiden, the Netherlands; Paris, France; and Hangzhou, China. Spending time with students from across the United States and exploring these unique cultural and linguistic settings indeed has been a rare privilege. 

As we explored our educational partnerships, residential options, excursions and service-learning opportunities, I came away amazed at both the consistency and diversity of these programs.

The consistency is born of understanding the rich heritage we have in relationships that have endured over decades. Our first programs began in 1965 with a few intrepid faculty members and students forging relationships with partners around the world. This first-hand experience enabled me to discover something important—the depth of those relationships is still vibrant today. I was not only reassured by this reality but also felt a great sense of gratitude for those who had the vision to do something great. The courage of these academic pioneers more than 45 years ago made it possible for me to visit new places and find old friends. So many of our colleagues around the world shared stories of past years and aspirations for the future that spoke of a tradition and innovation in global experiential learning.

Yet with these long histories, I was impressed by the diversity of programs contextualized to each location. Guided by common principles of excellence, our outstanding directors have shaped programs that take advantage of the very best educational opportunities in each location. The experiences are based on a solid foundation and still highly customized to meet the needs of individual students. For some, this was an opportunity of working a unique internship, writing for a regional newspaper or teaching in a local school. For others, it was finding an instructor for music lessons to advance artistic talent. The range of service-learning experiences allows students to be immersed in settings that bring culture and language to life, leaving the tourist behind and favoring a real-world experience of societal challenge and opportunity.

Most rewarding for me was seeing all this through the eyes of students. Through culture shock, linguistic barriers and changing patterns of life, they find a personal transformation. Many commented on how the experience was reshaping their ideas as they encountered the perspectives of others. From sitting in classrooms, cooking classes and cafés to walking in the historic settings of the Alhambra Palace, Versailles and the Great Wall lives are changed by an expanding vision of the world through its culture, history and language. Being there to see this was amazing.

We’ve already planned our next trips in the spring of 2012 to London, England; Bangor, Wales; and Vienna, Austria. I can’t wait to experience other new places and find more old friends.

From left: President Mark Putnam, Tammy Putnam and Granada resident
director Verónica García Montero.

See more photos of the President’s visits on the CCA Facebook page.

Vienna named most livable city

Mercer has named Vienna the most livable city in the world. Vienna ranked first in the quality of living category and has held the top spot for three years in a row. The city beat out 220 other cities to earn this distinction.

“Despite being a native of Vienna, I still marvel at the city’s majestic buildings and outlay with many parks,” said Ruth Verweijen, Vienna on-site resident director. “Whenever I return from abroad the beauty is all the more obvious. Where else can you drink tap water straight from the Alps, sip coffee in a K&K (imperial and royal) Kaffeehaus and go swimming in one of the Danube side arms - all in the city!”

Mercer scored the cities based on 39 criteria, including relationships with other countries, traffic congestion, schools, climate and internal stability. Other CCA study abroad locations included in the top 50 most livable cities are Paris and London. Paris tied for 30th with Adelaide, Australia, and San Francisco, CA. London was ranked 38.

Read the full report by Mercer and watch a video to learn about the Vienna program.

Music lessons in Bangor
By: Naomi Seaton of Augustana College

Study abroad is something I’ve always been interested in, but I never knew exactly where I wanted to study. I had not initially considered Wales as a study abroad destination, but once I learned I could take harp lessons in Wales, my decision was made and I chose to study in Bangor!

I started playing the harp my freshman year of college and I love it. People always ask why I decided to learn to play the harp. I’ve always been fascinated by it because the harp is such a beautiful instrument. I was a little hesitant to study abroad because I didn’t want to take a three-month break from practicing. However, when I found out the harp is the national instrument of Wales, it made the decision easy. I knew I could continue taking lessons, and I was excited to learn some traditional Welsh music.

I take lessons at the William Mathias Music Centre from Elinor Bennett, a highly distinguished Welsh harpist. She is one of the foremost performers and music educators in all of Britain and served as the director and organizer of the Wales International Harp Festival. With all this in mind, I admit lessons with her can be a bit intimidating, but I’m learning a lot. As an added bonus, at my lessons I get the chance to practice speaking the Welsh I’ve learned since being in Bangor. However, that usually doesn’t go so well so I think I’ll stick to the playing!

Seaton (front) with Elinor Bennett during a harp lesson at the William Mathias Music Centre.
Seaton (front) with Elinor Bennett during a harp lesson at the William Mathias Music Centre.

I am renting a harp for the semester from the Music Centre so I can practice in between my weekly lessons. I keep the harp in my dorm room, and luckily my flatmates don’t mind my practicing. On a few occasions they have even convinced me to take the harp into our kitchen and give an impromptu concert. One of my flatmates is very intrigued by the combination of the music he listens to and the strains of harp music he hears from my room. The latest combo: MC Hammer and the harp! There probably isn’t a market for that mix anywhere, but we have fun with it. 

I’ve really enjoyed my lessons and time in Wales overall. As the semester comes to a close, I look forward to taking some Welsh music back home with me to continue learning and share with my harp teacher. The program in Wales was a great choice for me, and I’m so grateful that I was able to have this unique and truly Welsh experience. 

Learn more about Bangor, Wales.

Global business insight gained through internships

Central College Abroad offers internships that provide cross-cultural interaction and work experience related to a student's academic area of interest. Nate Bleadorn of Drake University couldn’t pass up this résumé building opportunity. Hear from Bleadorn as he describes his internship.

Internship abroad: “The internship was a great opportunity and I worked for a company that sells socks and hosiery. My primary project was to create a promotional piece that is printed in English and Mandarin Chinese. Since I don’t speak Chinese, I was paired with a local Chinese English major and we worked together to determine exactly what message the company was trying to send their audience.”

Cultural understanding: “I feel I have a better understanding of Chinese business practices after learning a little about their culture and background. The most surprising thing I encountered was the great amount of respect not only in the business environment but in the Chinese lifestyle and culture.”

“My favorite part of the experience was developing relationships with the Chinese students who helped with translation. I met some great students and gained so much from speaking with them, learning about their culture and backgrounds and sharing my own views and culture.”

Bleadorn (center) with Chinese friends in Yiwu.
Bleadorn (center) with Chinese friends.

Practical experience: “The biggest thing I will take into my own career is a global attitude toward business practices. I hope to work in management someday and know I need to be conscious of the global economy. My interactions with foreign business professionals will benefit me because I know the world is becoming more global and connected. I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with my internship supervisor and discussing best practices in business.”

“The opportunity is unique in many ways, and I think students should step outside their comfort zone and try something new. Overall, it was a great experience, and I highly recommend it.”

Learn more about internships abroad.

State Department discusses career options with Merida students

Paul Nichols (center) of the U.S. Consulate in Merida advises students
Paul Nichols (center) of the U.S. Consulate in Merida advises students
about career opportunities.

Paul Nichols (Central College, ’99), Management Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Merida, met with students in November to discuss career opportunities available through the U.S. Department of State. Nichols’s professional journey began during a study abroad experience in Merida in 1999. After graduating from Central, Nichols obtained master's degrees in Latin American studies and public administration at the University of Connecticut.

During his presentation, Nichols advised students to consider a position in the U.S. diplomatic corps because of the great opportunity to represent the U.S. abroad. In addition, Nichols encouraged students to push through the lengthy application process and admitted to taking the Department of State entrance exam three times before gaining a position. Nichols stressed the importance of strong writing skills and suggested speaking skills will follow if a person can express themself clearly and succinctly. 

Nichols also discussed the pros and cons of entering graduate school immediately following undergraduate coursework and provided general advice and encouragement to students soon entering the job market.

Nichols's presentation was one of three held in Merida geared to connect study abroad experiences with careers outside the U.S. Other speakers included Cathy Harrison, an interpreter/translator in Merida. Harrison stressed the importance of life experiences, a broad knowledge of current events and excellent language skills as crucial components for a successful career in interpretation. The final speaker was Diana Arízaga, program director of IFSA-Butler in Merida. Arízaga discussed career options in international education and advised students to be open to new experiences.  

Learn more about study abroad in Merida, Yucatan.

Homestay Highlight: Granada, Spain

Spanish language acquisition is the goal for many students in Granada and homestays help students reach this goal. Boarding with a host family allows for language and cultural immersion outside the classroom and provides an invaluable element to the student’s linguistic development. Hear from Granada students as they reflect on their homestay experiences.

What were you feeling when you first met your host family?

  • Ryan Scheetz of Buena Vista University: “I was nervous about communicating with my family. I was also very excited to become part of a family and get acclimated to the Spanish culture. Learning about the Spanish culture was one of the reasons I chose to study in Granada, and I knew a homestay would give me an up-close-and-personal understanding.”

Describe your host family.

  • Amy Buckman of Valparaiso University: “My host mother is a grandmother who has six children and 14 grandchildren. My host mother’s son comes over for lunch every day, and the rest of her family is over numerous times a week. Every week, my roommate and I spend a few hours with my host mom's niece and nephew who are learning English. We talk to them in Spanish, and they talk to us in English. I've met so many of my host mom’s family members, and I love talking with them.”

Buckman (left) with her host mother.
Buckman (left) with her host mother.

  • Garrett Sauey of Davidson College: “I live with a host mother and her husband. They have two grown kids, and their eldest son’s wife is studying in Granada so she stays with us almost every week. I also live with a roommate and have truly enjoyed every minute of my homestay experience.”
  • Anna Silverman of Scripps College: “My host mom is a special education teacher, my host dad a family practice doctor, my host little sister is eight years old and my host grandmother visits almost every day. My homestay is incredibly warm and welcoming! They go out of their way to make sure I am comfortable, are incredibly patient with my Spanish and always help me improve my grammar.”

How has living with a host family improved your Spanish language skills?

  • Buckman: “My Spanish has improved, and my host mom does a great job of correcting me so I can learn for the next time. I've learned a lot of colloquial phrases and idioms. My host mom always has the TV on, so watching TV with her at meals has helped my comprehension of Spanish.”  
  • Silverman: “I joke with my host little sister that she is the best Spanish professor ever! My Spanish has improved an incredible amount thanks to my host family.”

How has your homestay helped you cope with culture shock and homesickness?

  • Scheetz: “It is very nice to hear your host family call you their child. Feeling accepted into a family has really helped me cope with being so far away from my own family.”
  • Silverman: “Living with a host family has definitely made the transition to life in Granada much easier. Whenever I have a question or am curious about anything, my host family is a great resource. They’ve taken me to different places around Granada and the surrounding cities, which has been a lot of fun! Being so busy with my host family has left no time to be homesick.”

Silverman (bottom left) with her host family in Granada.
Silverman (bottom left) with her host family in Granada.

How do you feel about leaving your host family at the end of the semester?

  • Buckman: “My favorite thing about the homestay is the relationship with my host mom and I'll miss her a lot when the semester is over. She's very fun and she always makes jokes with me. I have learned a lot about her life and I think that she's an incredible woman.”
  • Sauey: “Without a doubt the people I'll miss the most are my host parents. They are such wonderful, welcoming, open people, and I know I'll be a little teary-eyed when we have to say goodbye.”
  • Scheetz: “I am going to miss having a Spanish mom in my life and being able to talk with her all the time. She doesn't know any English, but when we talk, she makes jokes that I will understand and laughs along with me. She has taken a special place in my heart, and I will always remember her.”

Learn more homestays in Granada, Spain.

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